Moving Home; Witnessing Documents During Lockdown

By Kirstie Philpott

Solicitor

While the lockdown is ongoing, many are still progressing their house sale and purchases in the anticipation of moving home once the lockdown has been lifted. With many removal companies closed until lockdown is over, families face more weeks at home surrounded by half-pack boxes until they can complete their move.

During this time, you may have been sent various documents from your solicitor to sign on your house sale and/or purchase. Some documents in a conveyancing transaction require signatures to be witnessed and questions are raised about who and how they can secure the correct witnessing of a document in these troubling times.

Can my wife witness my signature?

No, a witness cannot be a relative of the individual signing. Issues are faced when we are isolated with only our families and contact with other parties is prohibited. Your wife, son, daughter, brother, sister or any other relative of yourself cannot be a witness to your signature.

What about my neighbour?

Yes your neighbour can witness your signature but you should ensure you comply with the social distancing rules at all times. A neighbour could witness your signature through a window or on your doorstep all the while adhering to the social distancing guidelines.

Does the witness have to be of a specific occupation?

Largely no, but you should check what advice has been given from your solicitor. Some documents required for mortgages may require another independent solicitor to witness your signature, which will also include them providing separate independent advice on that document. You should check with your acting solicitor if you are unsure. Arranging a meeting with another solicitor at this time to facilitate this may prove difficult and you may need to wait until the lockdown has been lifted.

Can someone witness your signature over video link?

No, the definition of a witness is that they must be present. A colleague of mine witnessed a signature of a house purchaser this week through a window, with the document being passed through the letter box between them. It is important that the witness actually sees you signing the document first hand.

Can I sign now and post to someone else to have my signature witnessed?

No, the witness must be present when you sign the document and see you sign. It is not enough for you to tell the witness that the signature is yours. Their witnessing must only be given when they have physically seen you sign the document and been in your presence when doing so.

I do not live with the second seller of the property I am selling, do we have to have the same witness to both our signatures?

No, separate signing individuals can sign at separate times and have different witnesses to their signatures. As long as your respective witness has been present when you were signing, this is valid.